MALOLOS, Bulacan – Food delivery mobile applications are much-used platforms when ordering food even before the pandemic, most of them only available in urban areas.
At the onset of Covid-19 pandemic in the country, the government has implemented quarantine measures. Many businesses were forced to close, dine in restaurants and fast food chains were prohibited during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), making delivery services apps more useful during the lockdown period.
But how is it for areas, particularly provinces, where these apps are not available?
This was when Edmond Ramos from Malolos, Bulacan converted their small neighborhood online group on Facebook into an online food selling platform that eventually offers food delivery services now called Food Malolos Group.
Ramos, an active administrator of the Food Malolos Group, recalled that his friend created the Facebook group in 2019 to promote and sell home-made Japanese food cooked by his father.
Initially, members of the Facebook group were only family and friends in their neighborhood until they invited more people in the private group and reached more than 1,000 members by the end of 2019, Ramos said.
When the pandemic hit the country, however, they added online food sellers and buyers mostly from Malolos and neighboring municipalities in Bulacan like Guiguinto and Calumpit.
According to Ramos, Food Malolos Group now has over 20,000 members with some members are based in Metro Manila.
Of the total members, around 70 percent are online food and food-related sellers – 10 percent of which had their physical stores before the pandemic, and the rest are new online entrepreneurs.
From sideline to livelihood
Kris Villanueva, an online seller in Food Malolos Group, has resigned from her work as a teacher and guidance counselor in a private school and decided to focus on her business.
Villanueva said cooking and online selling were not new to her as she loves to cook and was selling her specialty ‘relyenong bangus’ (stuffed milkfish) as a sideline before the Covid-19 pandemic.
She and her partner decided to expand their food business as they now also cook and sell other Filipino food.
“In terms of income, I proudly say that it’s better in business. You will learn how to budget, limit your expenses, and save from your earnings. Eventually, your business will grow as long as you know how to handle your money. Plus, you don’t have bosses! You have all your time. And no more paperwork, but more on accounting,” she added.
Villanueva said they are planning to open their physical store once the Covid-19 health crisis is over.
“For now, we will continue what we’ve started, selling food online since we’re known already and we’re having customers from different areas in Bulacan,” she said.
Villanueva is still doing teaching jobs but only for tutorials as she focuses on her online food venture.
Source of income for displaced workers
Food Malolos Group also provided a new source of income for people who lost their jobs but have motorcycles.
Ramos said they have seen the need to also include riders to cater to delivery services for food sellers and their customers.
Since the group’s system is not as sophisticated as delivery apps, he said Food Malolos Group’s administrators manually assign delivery men to online food sellers.
Food Malolos Group, which maintains standard delivery fees, also regulates its members by requiring them to indicate prices of products they are posting and to follow the standard delivery fees for riders.
“Hindi kami naniningil sa riders ng membership fee gaya ng mga delivery apps. Nagbubutaw lang sila araw-araw ng PHP35 dahil required para sa business permit namin na kumikita kami (We don’t ask our riders for membership fee, unlike delivery app companies. They just give us PHP35 per day as dues because we have to earn so we can get business permit),” Ramos said.
He said people behind Food Malolos Group earn an average of PHP30,000 a month from riders’ PHP35-per-day contributions.
“Ayaw talaga sana naming maningil pero kailangang kumikita ka para mabigyan ka ng business permit (We really don’t want to charge fees but we need to so we can get business permit),” he added.
He is also proud that Food Malolos Group is registered with the Department of Trade and Industry and now pays taxes to the government.
“Gusto lang naming makatulong sa komunidad namin noong ECQ. Natutuwa naman kami na marami na rin pala kaming natulungan lalo na ‘yong mga nawalan ng trabaho (We just want to help to the community during the ECQ. We are happy that we have helped many especially those who lost their jobs)” he added. (PNA)